Just like that, the tide had changed. Bob Dylan had found his next incarnation. It took eight years and several albums for him to find it but, with his brother Michael, Dylan would re-discover his touch, if only for a brief time, in a recording studio in Minnesota. Dylan would take the listener on a personal journey, though Dylan would deny it was autobiographical, into what many thought to be his rocky relationship with wife Sara. The downward spiral in his relationship corresponded to recent flak he was taking about the new direction of his music.
Dylan’s new collection of songs and seemingly renewed passions would see a return of the old Dylan. More over, this record would show a more personal, though he denies it as well, side of Dylan. Nonetheless, one listen to Blood on the Tracks reveals a quite impassioned series of vocal performances.
An influential review of the album was written by Dylan critic Michael Gray for the magazine Let It Rock. Gray argued that it transformed the cultural perception of Dylan, and that he was no longer defined as “the major artist of the sixties. Instead, Dylan has legitimized his claim to a creative prowess as vital now as then—a power not bounded by the one decade he so affected.” This view was amplified by Clinton Heylin, who wrote: “Ten years after he turned the rock & roll brand of pop into rock … [Dylan] renewed its legitimacy as a form capable of containing the work of a mature artist.” In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote that although the lyrics occasionally evoke romantic naiveté and bitterness, Blood on the Tracks is altogether Dylan’s “most mature and assured record
After avoiding anything that remotely sounding like a protest song, Dylan would take up the cause of jailed boxer Rubin Carter. Desire, the album that ‘Hurricane’ called home, was l the swan song, of sorts for Dylan. The rebellious 1960s were long gone. Those who didn’t accept that fact were dying off quickly.
Critical reception was positive –
Critic Dave Marsh would call it one of the “two best records Dylan has made since John Wesley Harding“ and gave it a four-star review in the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide. He also mentioned that, this album has shown a change in style compared to his other works in 1970’s by saying: “But love songs aren’t the focus of Desire, which is one of the things that differentiates it from Dylan’s other post-rock work. On the best songs, Dylan returns to the fantastic images, weird characters and absurdist landscapes of the Sixties.” Some critics were not impressed; Robert Christgau wrote: “Although the candid propaganda and wily musicality of “Hurricane” delighted me for a long time, the deceitful bathos of its companion piece “Joey” tempts me to question the unsullied innocence of Rubin Carter himself”. He disputed their categorization as protest songs and mused that Dylan’s songs about oppressed “heroes” may have been a reflection of Dylan’s own feelings at the time. Nevertheless, there was enough critical support to push Desire to #26 on The Village Voice‘s Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1976. In 2003, the album was ranked number 174 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list
The family man had fallen back in love with Rock & Roll and all of its excesses.